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U.S. Trade Rep Creates Piracy Watch List
U.S. Trade Rep Creates Piracy Watch List
May 3, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

May 3, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

The Entertainment Software Association is praising a report from the United States Trade Representative that calls out countries that don't do enough to protect intellectual property.

The USTR's "Special 301" report identified countries that either don't sufficiently guard IP rights, or that block American businesses that rely on copyright protection. 11 countries, including Canada and China, are on a "Priority Watch List" for more immediate problems, while 29 countries including Spain and Mexico are on a "Watch List."

"Internet piracy is a significant concern with respect to a number of trading partners, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Italy, Russia, Spain and Ukraine," highlighted the report, pointing out that Canada has yet to enact key legislative reforms surrounding copyrights.

China is also specifically noted for "market access barriers create additional incentives to infringe products such as movies, video games, and books, and lead consumers to the black market, thereby compounding the severe problems already faced by China’s enforcement authorities."

The ESA had itself named many of these problem nations through its membership with the International Intellectual Property Alliance, and filed a report with the USTR last year, and recommended it investigate the "piracy havens."

"Illicit circumvention devices such as mod chips and game copiers are facilitating online piracy, which can cripple our industry’s extraordinary innovation," says ESA president Michael Gallagher.

"President Obama has underscored the importance of doubling exports over the next five years in order to spur job growth," he adds. "The entertainment software industry is well positioned to contribute to this initiative, as we produce game products that the world desires."

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Jon Gregory
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My guess is that this doesn't wind up being any more or less effective than DRM is at the moment. The problem is that sitting here and saying that you are investigating something that you can't hope to contain with legislation of any kind is really pointless. No one is going to stop pirating things just because some bill says it is illegal. Just look at the US, plenty of laws against that stuff and it certainly hasn't stopped anyone. The truth is, it only takes one person to host a torrent and then the availability of that game on the internet, for free, is guaranteed for the foreseeable future. There is no way, after it has started to spread, that an enforcement agency would be able to track down every single person hosting it, and technically they would only be able to arrest and prosecute the people who were distributing it. If our law enforcement can't handle people breaking into things in real life and stealing tangible things with their own two hands, then how in the world can they expect to track down a network of people online?

And, who buys something called a game copier? It is pretty simple to mod a computer to copy XBox games, in theory it would take an extra drive and about ten minutes. The people making the mod chips are just as smart as the people trying to stop them from being made. There are ways to disguise that stuff and it is very unlikely that people making the mod chips would or even could be implicated in any sort of piracy claim against them.

Not trying to be a grumpy gus, just callin it like I sees it.

Nels Anderson
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This inclusion of Canada on this list is (as it is every year) total bullshit ( Special 301 lacks any kind of substantive methodology or data, as the CCIA documented ( when saying it's wholly inappropriate for Canada to be included on this "watch list." At the very least, it's clear the validity of Special 301 has been repeatedly called into question by numerous industry groups.

I kind of wish Gama had done a little more research of the substance of the USTR's report, rather than reporting on it as if it were facts based on real data. It's political bullying from special interests and little more. Obviously there are real IP protection problems in countries like China and Russia, but we ought to seriously question the inclusion of most of the other nations on this list.

Sean Parton
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@Nels Anderson: I agree that this list is bunk, but I wouldn't blame Gamasutra on their reporting of it. They're merely parroting what's in the report, highlighting specific passages that may be of interest to a large section of readers.

Craig Henderson
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@Sean Parton

That's kind of his entire point in blaming Gamasutra. By repeating it without any type of commentary it makes it appear that they support and agree with it, whether they do or not that's what it looks like, and as a citizen of Canada it makes me reconsider visiting this site on a daily basis.

In regards to the report, it appears to me that they just put any country on the list that doesn't view copyright the exact same way that the US does. Canada is no more a haven of piracy than the US is, but if that's the case, why do all the game companies have offices here? Shouldn't they want to remove themselves from such a dangerous country? Oh wait, I forgot about the tax breaks and employee subsidies they get from the gov't...

Maurício Gomes
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@Mr. Arsenault.

Totally agreed!

Ben Rice
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"The rest of the world create a "Imperial asshole who should mind their own freaking business" list, The US of A are number one and alone on it"

I'm pretty sure that if you made a game, and it was being pirated at rates above 80% outside the US, you'd be pretty upset as well.

Oh, but I forgot. That's just the cost of doing business in the games industry now, right?

Adam Bishop
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The problem is one of evidence. Where is the physical evidence that pirating in Canada is drastically worse than in other industrial nations? Where is there any proof that 80% of copies of, say, Call of Duty, in Canada are pirated?

Meredith Katz
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Does anyone have a more up-to-date or game-focused link than this? There's, like, a 50% difference between some of the "priority watch" countries' data here, but Canada(33%)'s being listed in the same breath as China (82%) based on an American board's assessment of our laws? Because I find that pretty sketchy, yeah. At the least a study would have to compare the actual piracy rate to whether the laws are draconian to see IF that's the problem... right?

But if anyone has a link to better show the rate of game piracy in these different countries I might be able to accept it as more reasonable...

Michiel Hendriks
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@Meredith Katz

Adam Bishop asked for proof, not made up numbers.

Meredith Katz
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...I wasn't replying to Adam Bishop or anyone in particular. That was the only graph I was able to find on short notice that related to software piracy rates per country. As I asked (twice), I wanted to see if anyone had anything either more up to date or more video game-focused, because I'd like to see something more accurate, but I'm finding a lack of easily-accessible information. The one that compiled the results from the Fifth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study (2007) was the only thing I found quickly. If it's the only thing that stands, it seems to me pretty sketchy to consider the difference in piracy rates irrelevant simply because the legislation is lower than the ESA would like. If there's better information that shows comparable piracy rates between the countries listed, then that'd be very good to know.

Is there a problem with this?

Meredith Katz
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PS, the site I linked compiled the information from the study I mentioned which has a site here: if that helps.

Simon Carless
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Fair comment on the simple reprinting re: Canada, folks. We are, of course, just passing on what the ESA and the U.S. Government is saying here, and one of the problems we've found is that there's not a lot of data to refute the claims. However, these comments make us wonder what ESA Canada says about it this, given it's their sister org doing the damning! We'll try to reach out to them...

Ken Nakai
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Honestly, while this is sort of pointless in the grand scheme of things, it's a start. A big part of minimizing piracy is education but it isn't just educating's also about educating governments about the importance of the revenue from the sales of legitimate copies of games. There was this whole turn around (well, as much of one as you'd expect) in Russia as the authorities started cracking down on larger scale piracy but also as consumers were educated on the differences between pirate and legitimate copies of software. Plus, of course, the games were priced more in line with local cost-of-living.

The problem is, the industry would rather spit out more and more draconian (see Ubisoft) DRM schemes that still don't do anything but inconvenience the customer who's actually shelled out full price for the game while the pirates get their copies cracked and distributed within days of release. There has to be a more comprehensive effort across the industry to get the word out and help people understand what they're shelling their money out for. There also has to be a more concerted effort to release bug-free games. You've got to get rid of the excuses casual pirates use to justify their actions.

You'll never totally eradicate piracy. There will always be someone out there looking for the challenge of the crack while another handful of people will be looking to get their games for free no matter what. You can't change a criminal. But, you can change those that are either ignorant or a bit loose with their morals. Better enforcement, stronger penalties, consumer education, better products with less barriers of access/usability (due to the aforementioned DRM), all of these would at least help contribute to a reduction in casual piracy and improve revenues.

Adam Bishop
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I don't know that ESA Canada's statistics are any more reliable (I'm inherently distrustful of piracy statistics), but their web page seems to endorse the view that piracy is a bigger problem in Canada than elsewhere:

Brett Williams
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If this is a government to government relationship list that they are taking under advisement when working with other countries I can't really see it as harm or loss to consumers. I don't see anything in this that states they are doing anything to stop trade, it merely states that they have created a list of countries that they feel don't have the USTR or US Copyright's view or enforcement.

Whether that affects anyone but the opposing side of a table in government talks none of us care about, I don't know for certain, the article isn't specific what this information is for or who cares about it.

It certainly has very little to do with intellectual property rights or management. There's no function of this list in any practical sense.

Tom Newman
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Canada has a HUGE piracy problem. Ontario has the largest concentrated Asian population outside Asia, and you can go into any shopping mall with Asian writing on the sign (there are many especially in the Toronto suburbs), and you can buy DVDs at 5 for $15 and videogames at 5 for $20, and they even sell the pre-modded consoles to play the games. I go to Canada often and am baffled how this can go on out in the open.